When it comes to JRPG’s, there are a few long running franchises that have become staples in the genre. Perhaps one of the most purist to achieve a semblance of commercial success is the Tales series. Beginning in 1995 and appearing across many consoles this series has seemingly transcended the need for a single format. Tales of Xillia marks the series’ 13th mainline western release and with a sequel already released in Japan (and set to make its way West) does this latest instalment live up to the expectation of fans whilst still pushing the franchise into new areas? Thankfully the answer is a firm yes.
By tweaking the combat system and adding a new narrative dynamic, developer Namco-Bandai have created something that is both familiar and refreshing, allowing it to appeal to both long-term fans of the series and any other JRPG fans simultaneously.
Unlike the other Tales games, Tales of Xillia tells the story of 2 characters and allows players to pick which they wish use. This in turn makes for two campaigns that run in parallel along the same storyline and serves as one of Xillia’s best features. What stands out here is the replay value created by this dynamic. Despite the story following the same basic structure, new cut-scenes and exposition really make for a good reason to play the game both ways, adding a large amount of replay value.
The other major plus here is the tweaked combat system. Although Tales veterans will be familiar with many of its features, there is a surprising amount of depth here that is only augmented by playing as each character. This new easy to learn, difficult to master structure is something that that the franchise will benefit from a great deal and serves as a welcome addition to the series.
What is also impressive here is the level of depth to many of the characters. A lot of exposition can be found here in optional conversations and it is clear that a great deal of time was spent crafting these characters. This is only enhanced by the mostly great voice acting and decent dialogue translation that can so often serve as a pitfall of the genre.
Tales of Xillia may boast some great characters, however the story that they tell does have a few issues. These are mainly due to some incredibly formulaic ideas that have been seen many times over the years in the genre. Don’t get me wrong, the story isn’t bad, it is simply a little predictable and this is a real shame given the obvious amount of time clearly spent on creating the world and its characters.
Speaking of the characters, it is also a little bit of a shame that missing the optional dialogue will mean you miss out on so much exposition. This double edged sword means there is plenty for those who dig but maybe not enough for those who don’t, meaning characters can seem a little underdeveloped if players don’t take their time while playing.
The other issue here comes in the forms of some of the game’s visuals. The anime style videos are great but don’t come nearly often enough and in-game cut-scenes do look a little dated by today’s standards. Luckily a great art style and some amazing area design means that this issue is more than forgivable in the long run.
In the end, Tales of Xillia stands toe-to-toe with the best the genre can offer currently. Despite many small issues stopping it from reaching the levels of quality seen by some of the franchises’ previous entries (Tales of Symphonia etc), there is still plenty here that shines. Whether you are a fan of the series or the genre in general, Tales of Xillia should definitely be on your radar and thankfully with a sequel on the way, this long running series shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon